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COVID-19: Sixteen months and counting

It was February 2020 when the first few cases of Covid-19 were recognized in the United States, and soon after, we had shutdowns country-wide and the beginnings of mask mandates. We could hardly fathom the loss of lives we would experience. We didn’t know what to expect, and it was the rare individual who would have anticipated that 15 months later we would still be dealing with this pandemic. During this time, our world has changed in many ways and we all long for the return of normalcy. But stress and strife are often the accelerators of innovation. The pandemic has shown this to be true in many ways.

Worldwide collaboration and information sharing.

Through governmental support and industry sharing, vaccines were developed in record time. In the United States, more than 114 million people have been fully vaccinated, lending more hope for a continued return to normalcy. The level of collaboration between private industry, government, and international organizations was unprecedented and allowed for the rapid development and deployment of incredibly safe and effective vaccines.

Work life.

Front line and essential workers stepped up, putting themselves and their loved ones at risk. Those that could do so started working remotely, and most continue to do so. Technology adapted and advanced. "Zooming" has entered the English lexicon.

Work and home life intermixed, and corporations learned that they could depend on employees to be productive from home. Yet, according to the Global Impact Study, many still prefer to work from the office, citing better communication, better collaboration, and increased productivity as advantages. Many industries are slowly returning to on-site work, while others are learning to blend the two approaches, giving flexibility to a different and perhaps better future work life.

Family life.

As rolling shutdowns occurred, there was an immediate need to balance work with educational oversight of school-age children – bringing new, unexpected and unique challenges. Some children thrived with remote learning; others not so much. But we also learned that families around the world have reported improvement in quality time together. We’ve seen a return to gardening, baking, and crafts – and, just maybe, a renewed focus on the importance of close-knit community as the pandemic has proven that we are not in this alone.

Health care access and delivery.

Like many industries, the onset of the pandemic limited access to non-critical health care. Health facilities, insurers, and the government came together and pivoted, expanding coverage and services in order to allow for better and safer access. Virtual care is now “out of the box” and has become an everyday reality.

Behavioral health needs have spiked, showing us how essential better networks and solutions are for all ages. Access to quality primary care, behavioral health, and specialty care will continue to improve. Ideas such as Hospital at Home have gained more traction.  More than ever before, technology will play a bigger role in health care by helping to decrease disparities and inequities in access to care and affordability.


The pandemic has magnified life stressors in multiple ways. Loss of loved ones, loss of income, increased isolation, and new ways of working and learning have proven the importance of personal well-being. Globally, COVID-19 has impacted finances of most families and individuals to such a degree that only 22% feel they are confident about maintaining their current standard of living. Similarly, only 20% feel they are secure financially in the event of job loss. In the U.S., more people are pessimistic about their financial futures than elsewhere.

Our physical health has also suffered, from missed preventive care screenings for colon cancer, diabetes, and breast cancer to a lack of exercise and exertion. Early on in the pandemic, we saw an increase in physical activity, but that’s fallen off as the fatigue of the pandemic has worn on. What’s most clear is that the pandemic has had a drastic effect on the emotional well-being of old and young alike. This has led to innovation and a marked increase in both virtual behavior health support and lifestyle apps that have opened up access and awareness to these often under-utilized resources.

Return to normalcy.

It’s happening: The vaccines are helping – and, slowly, we see businesses and communities opening up. We’re now looking at something different than just “a return to normal.” We’re likely to experience and redefine “normal” for years to come. Intermittent COVID-19 spikes and outbreaks may occur, and vaccines might become a yearly necessity, similar to how flu shots are recommended on an annual basis. But, most importantly, we’re human and we’re resilient. By recognizing that we’re all in this together, and by working together, with a few ounces of hope, we can actually build a stronger new normal.

Be safe, be smart, be thankful.  We can and will continue to find ways to get through the pandemic together, and we’ll be stronger for having done so.

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